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Newbie asking - Road to Dinkey Lakes & campgrounds 4 trailer

Backpacking and camping basics and other general trip planning discussion for the uninitiated. Use this forum to learn where to look for the information you need, and to ask questions, related to the beginner basics of backpacking and camping, including technique and best practices.
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Newbie asking - Road to Dinkey Lakes & campgrounds 4 trailer

Postby TCHN DAD » Mon Jul 22, 2013 10:40 am

Hi Everyone,

Wow, what a great forum! this is my first post.

I have a 13 year old son who wants to try out backpacking. I have searched high and low for places to go for 2 - 3 nights. It's been overwhelming. Just put in Jennie lakes into the site search, and there are tons of places to go. :eek:

I am trying to cull it down to a few choices. Dinkey Lakes has come up as a great starter place. I read that the road out to Dinkey lakes is a ways... and dirt road.

Is the road passible in my minivan and how long does it take? I have a 2000 Toyota Sienna and the ground clearance is generally better than most cars.

I want to take my pop up trailer with us, but park it in a campground and then drive to the TH in just the minivan. Are there any campgrounds that anyone would recommend near to the TH?

I am hoping to leave on Monday, July 29 for the drive up from The San Fernando Valley(part of Los Angeles). We want to do at least two over nights with backpacks and then return to a campground where we can park my pop up trailer.

Thanks

Rod



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Re: Newbie asking - Road to Dinkey Lakes & campgrounds 4 trailer

Postby maverick » Mon Jul 22, 2013 11:45 am

Hi Rod,

Welcome to HST! Here is the list of campgrounds in the area:
http://www.fs.usda.gov/recarea/sierra/r ... 0&actid=29
Haven't driven that road in a long time but do remember it being pretty rough
a few members were out there a few weeks back and used it, so they will probably
chime in. Expect it to be warm and dry out there, but mosquito situation will
be much better by your trip.
HST= Wilderness Adventurer who knows no bounds, except for their own imagination.

Have a safer backcountry experience by using the HST ReConn Form 2.0, named after Larry Conn, a HST member: http://reconn.org
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Re: Newbie asking - Road to Dinkey Lakes & campgrounds 4 trailer

Postby AlmostThere » Mon Jul 22, 2013 12:38 pm

The road to the Willow meadow trailhead is completely unsuitable for trailers and cars that do not have high enough clearance to surmount some pretty major roots and rocks. I have seen anything from a Mini Cooper to a BMW up there but cannot vouch for the absence or presence of major mechanical repair after they return from the trip. For myself, I won't be taking my passenger car up it. I get rides in trucks/Jeeps or go around on the paved road to Courtright and head up from the Cliff Lake trailhead there.It's the last couple of miles that are the problem. I've managed to get a Mazda up the semi-paved, full-of-holes road to that final turn up the hill but beware the huge bathtub sized holes in the pavement that lurk in the shade...

You can leave your trailer in pullouts along the road without needing to pay or trailhead parking at Cliff Lake at Courtright as that is accessible. There are campgrounds around - Dinkey Creek, and two at Courtright.
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Re: Newbie asking - Road to Dinkey Lakes & campgrounds 4 trailer

Postby TehipiteTom » Mon Jul 22, 2013 3:19 pm

I did the Willow Meadow trailhead in my Honda Fit, so it can be done.

Whether you want to do it is another matter altogether. I won't be doing again anytime soon.

Within the first 1/4 mile there are enormous deep potholes, and there are plenty more of them as far as the road is "paved" (conveniently, they're mostly in shadow so you don't see them until you're right on top of them). Then the road gets worse--dirt with occasional mocking remnants of "pavement". After that, it gets a lot worse, with the deep ruts and big rocks. Right before the trailhead there's one small chunk of asphalt paving (there hasn't been any for miles at this point), which I'm convinced is some evil bastard's sick sadistic joke.

Coming out, it took me 47 minutes to drive 7 miles.

Cliff Lakes trailhead involves a longer hike in with more elevation gain, but it is paved all the way. Your choice.
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Re: Newbie asking - Road to Dinkey Lakes & campgrounds 4 trailer

Postby giantbrookie » Mon Jul 22, 2013 7:46 pm

There are a number of campgrounds you can leave the trailer at, but primitive camping (check USFS about regulations) is commonly done in a number of places along the Dinkey Creek road as you'll see when you drive up.

As for the road, my many trips up the road to the trailhead give me the same impressions as others. In the late 80's before the purchase of my Pathfinder in late fall 1992, my wife and I took a number of trips we took a lot of trips to that trailhead with a '79 Corolla (medium clearance) and an '87 Celica (very very low clearance). As noted earlier the lower, wide section of the road is partly paved but has numerous potholes that will knock your alignment out in one shot (I recall at least two alignment jobs we had to get done following trips). The final dirt spur to the trailhead has one steep section before cresting out and for some vehicles this requires getting up a bit of a head of steam, which raises the odds of damage for a low clearance passenger car. My assessment is the same as previous posters here: it is very much doable by passenger car, and very commonly done (you'll see lots of passenger cars at the trailhead), but the risk of some level of damage to such low clearance vehicles is fairly high.

You should note that whereas the Dinkey Lake trailhead is a good kickoff for an easy beginner's backpack, with a lot of nice options once you get in, there are many other comparable options. You mention Jennie Lakes, but Jennie Lake is further in and there are not many options that way (Weaver Lake and Jennie Lake). In contrast, Twin Lakes in Kaiser Wilderness is similar to the Dinkey Lakes Wilderness from the Dinkey Lakes trailhead in terms of ease of access by hiking (ie short hike in with relatively low amount of elevation gain) and also has a lot of dayhiking options from a base at the Twin Lakes or nearby. Unlike the Dinkey Lakes trailhead, the two most popular trailheads to the Twins are both easily reached by passenger car. The shortest hike is going in from the Sample Meadow side on the E side of Kaiser Pass, but the Potter Pass trail from W of Kaiser Pass is more scenic (bit longer with a bit more elevation gain). There are plenty of campgrounds around Huntington Lake.

Seville Lake coming in from Marvin Pass (this is fairly near the kickoff for Jennie Lakes) is another good beginner option that goes from a passenger car friendly trailhead and features a destination with some room to explore from.
Since my fishing (etc.) website is still down, you can be distracted by geology stuff at: http://www.fresnostate.edu/csm/ees/facu ... ayshi.html
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Re: Newbie asking - Road to Dinkey Lakes & campgrounds 4 trailer

Postby toejam » Mon Jul 22, 2013 8:06 pm

I think you'll find a lot more campgrounds on decent roads on the east side - Onion Valley, Big Pine, Bishop Creek, Rock Creek, the list goes on...
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Re: Newbie asking - Road to Dinkey Lakes & campgrounds 4 trailer

Postby TehipiteTom » Mon Jul 22, 2013 9:03 pm

toejam wrote:I think you'll find a lot more campgrounds on decent roads on the east side - Onion Valley, Big Pine, Bishop Creek, Rock Creek, the list goes on...

Oh, another East side chauvinist? Yawn.

Boredom notwithstanding, that's not actually true.
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Re: Newbie asking - Road to Dinkey Lakes & campgrounds 4 trailer

Postby canukyea » Mon Jul 22, 2013 9:05 pm

I made the journey by car a couple years ago. I believe there was no lasting damage but I would be lying if I said I didn't sweat during some parts. The key is to keep a higher speed for the steeper stretches but not so much that you can't avoid potholes.
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Re: Newbie asking - Road to Dinkey Lakes & campgrounds 4 trailer

Postby AlmostThere » Mon Jul 22, 2013 9:18 pm

TehipiteTom wrote:
toejam wrote:I think you'll find a lot more campgrounds on decent roads on the east side - Onion Valley, Big Pine, Bishop Creek, Rock Creek, the list goes on...

Oh, another East side chauvinist? Yawn.

Boredom notwithstanding, that's not actually true.


I like the east side, but not the drive....
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Re: Newbie asking - Road to Dinkey Lakes & campgrounds 4 trailer

Postby TCHN DAD » Tue Jul 23, 2013 9:43 pm

Many thanks for all the help on this. It's definitely something to consider. After considering the starting elevation and the road out to the TH, it looks like I am going to leave this for another time. It helped me compile some data on Dinkey Lakes for a future attempt. Looks like, it would be better left for a more experienced time.

Thank you giantbrookie for your suggestion on Twin Lakes in Kaiser. That's looking like one of my other possibilities. I have it narrowed down to 5 possible areas for our trip and it goes through constant rethinking.

Cheers

Rod
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